Petri Rainer - Trubaduurimusiikkia / Armas Huutamo - Vastapainovoima (Lahna Records CDs)
I like a lot of things, and I like a lot of Finnish things especially, so Sami Maaranen knows the route straight to my heart with his young-ish Lahna Records label. Despite having been around for a couple years, the label is just five releases old, with the Petri Rainer EP being the newest addition to the catalogue. Armas Huutamo is catalogue number three and it came out two years ago! Kind of a reprieve from the habitual deluge of CD-R noise shlock these days, so I like em more already. And another good reason to like em is that they don't dabble in shlock - these two discs are quality recordings with respectable packaging jobs to match.
So I didn't know this Petri Rainer from a hole in the ground, and if you don't either you can sorta tell the fruits by the roots (or something) just by the cover art. There's some kind of mutant singing aloud with a guitar. On the record, there's some kind of mutant singing aloud with a guitar. For 10 minutes. That's right. EP in every sense of the acronym - five songs, 10 minutes. Beautiful! Nothing I hate more than when a feller doesn't know when to quit and drags his already-subpar album out to an agonizing 40-50+ minutes, so when it doubt make it short as far as I'm concerned. But 10 minutes? Shit yeah, this is like George Costanza leaving on high note and heaven knows we all wanted more from him. But then after I listened to "Trubaduurimusiikkia" ("troubadour music", I'll assume), I was wondering if I ever really want Petri Rainer making a record longer than this one already is. The Lahna Records website calls Rainer "Apocalyptic folkmusic, classical guitaring and maniacal pathos, troubadour music with a pinch of black metal" and they're really not too far off, even if the black metal in question is more along the lines of Dead Raven Choir's folk noir hymns (not that that's a bad thing, just don't get too exciting hoping for blastbeats and corpsepaint). Rainer strangles and forces chords out of his nylon-stringed guitar that might create an atmosphere comparable to DRC, but it's pretty hard to stay focused on his guitar playing once he starts singing. The lyrics are spat out at a mile-per-minute ratio, raving in a high-strung, jerky, emotional fashion about things I can't even begin to comprehend outside of running them through Babelfish and I'm far too lazy for that. I found myself struggling to recall my rudimentary knowledge of avant-garde Finnish music to draw an apt comparison, but nothing really fit and I didn't want to force it, so I'll stick to the Japanese names that flew at me after the 10 minutes had passed - Kan Mikami and early Keiji Haino with a twist of Yamatsuka Eye. Basically the kind of unflappable sound that some people wouldn't take a minute of, although I thought it was pretty boss myself. You can download almost half of the EP below and see if you're man enough for the Petri Challenge (get it? Like "Pepsi Challenge", you know?).
I originally wasn't planning on talking about this Armas Huutamo CD since it came out in 2005 and I try to keep things fairly recent here, but I wasn't planning on the above EP being so short either. And besides, they're too great not to mention whenever I have the opportunity. I first came across them last year thanks to a 7" on the excellent Lal Lal Lal label last year that collected a few tracks from a frenzied 1998 teenage improv punk session. I was expecting more of the same from "Vastapainovoima" (gosh these are some long record titles), and I sorta got it. Then I didn't. Then I did. See, the first track "Viekaa Minut" opens with a whimsical, adult contemp/latter-day-R.E.M. treatment that threw me for my first loop, only to leap headfirst into balls to the wall three-chord punk rock stomp, beginning with what I can only hope is the Finnish equivalent of "one, two, three, four!" (or, if there's a God, "one, two, fuck you!"). From there they veer back and forth between punk rock and snarling, poppish rock accompanied by garbled, computerized voices...and back again. So it goes. And it only gets weirder from there. "Nuoren Wertherin Karsimykset" is a noise rock/oi slammer in the vein of the Jesus Lizard, and "Sonni" is an up-tempo 90's punk rock chomp (at under two minutes), but that's pretty much where the similarities to the Armas Huutamo of old end. The trio bring down a thick, tribal ritual on "Huuda" that I can compare to a Finnish act of yore, namely the awesome Sikiöt. And then they switch it up entirely on the next track, "Kiertorata", with a brash funk/disco pulse that I wouldn't have been shocked to hear on an LCD Soundsystem album. The hissed "swastika" in the lyrics mixed with a George W. Bush soundbyte (who does a great job keeping time to the beat) is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the penis, but I don't think subtly is in the game plan for the whole album...so who gives a hoot. The band even flirt with full-blown metal on "(Periaatteessa) Tytto" and "Seisova Vesi", the former with a psychedelic tint to it and the latter a grimy if over-the-top thrash/power anthem. But it's the longest pieces that are the most baffling - the 10-minute hardcore/jazz/surf attack of "Uniaika" and the 8-minute "Kevytta Ilmaa" ping-ponging back and forth between lounge and male/female-voiced folk-pop. After the closing jazz funk slink of "Polkka Vasten Paalua" (nary a polka in sight!), it's pretty tempting to draw comparisons with Mr. Bungle circa "Disco Volante", but that's really only in spirit. At least they're not cribbing the notes directly like most of the Bungle-worshipping "weird" American rock bands I've heard. Armas Huutamo add way too much of their own brand of insanity to "Vastapainovoima" to warrant a longer look for sure, although parts of me can't help but miss the mindless fury of their teenage years, but that's because small things amuse small minds and I fit the bill all right. If you're bored with what's currently playing around your head lately and want to take a chance on a couple of real out-there platters, you've got my recommendations right here. Lahna Records also has a couple of spring releases to look forward to with morbid curiosity - Rapped Youth ("Cypress Hill of the Northern Taiga"!) and 7" from an as-yet unnamed duo boasting "tunes from the reverse sides and edges of romanticism", so stay peeled for those while you're at it.
Petri Rainer - Sillä Me Kaikki Uppoamme Pulputtaen
Petri Rainer - Mitä Muuta Samaanit Olivat Kuin Oman Aikansa Kylähulluja?
Armas Huutamo - Viekää Minut
Armas Huutamo - Nuoren Wertherin Kärsimykset
Armas Huutamo - Huuda
MP3s courtesy Lahna Records